If I was an Australia selector, I’d be saying, “Sorry Ricky. Of course, we’d love to give you a holiday but you have a job to do and as things aren’t quite on track, the wife and kids will have to wait.” Same goes for Gillie. But before I discuss the Australia selectors, let’s have the “credit where credit is due” paragraph. Congratulations England – who would have thought it!
By no fluke or particular luck, and match fixing allegations aside, England has beaten Australia three times in a row (and has won four games straight) to take home some consolation silverware. Perhaps they are emerging as dark horses for the World Cup. They have some very good players with Collingwood at the top of the list and KP returning. And more importantly, they have endured a long and character building summer and have ended strongly. I don’t think this team will make a good Test team but they are a bunch of unfancied, little known, but very useful cricketers who are well suited to the one day game. They remind me of the 1987 Australians and I think they may ruffle some feathers in the Caribbean.
On the other hand, Australia is starting to remind me of an aging, long standing champion headed for a major event, for just one last defence of the title. I’m thinking of cases like Kieren Perkins (2000 Olympics), Susie O’Neil (2000 Olympics), Bjorn Borg (Wimbledon 1981), The Brisbane Lions (2004 AFL Grand Final) and USA Men’s basketball team (1972 Olympics). These are all undisputed champions who had won many times but couldn’t quite repeat the dose one last time. Australia’s campaign has the wobbles. There must be concern that momentum is moving any direction but forward.
I’m wondering about the choices of the selectors. We should remember that the selectors have had some changes, some new blood and a different balance in recent times. I also notice that at least a couple of them a spending no small amount of time raking in the sponsorship dollars. I think the team selections have been mismanaged this summer and that has contributed to the loss in direction. I’m not a big fan of the rotation policy, although I can see its merits, if used within in reason. I cannot believe that two key players are being allowed to “skip school” in the last warm up before the main event. It is un-bloody-believable. And in Gillie’s case, it is even more puzzling because he is hardly setting the world on fire!! What happens if Haddin plays two or three scintillating innings (and there is a big chance he will)? Notwithstanding some stunning innings this summer, Gillie has been inconsistent. And his recent form is the worst – he hasn’t been past 30 for eight innings now (101 runs at 12.6)!! I find it hard to believe that Haddin would not do a better job than Gillie right now. Adam Gilchrist at his best is unbeatable but how often do we see the best of Gillie?
Symonds injury is critical and could not be foreseen, of course, but the situation is worsened by some bad choices made by the selectors during the One Day summer. In resting Ponting and Lee in a “match that did not matter”, they lost the match easily and ignited a form reversal for England (and Australia). Ponting is a key player and not having him in the team is a psychological boost to the opposition (and the opposite to his own team). In the scheme of rotation, I think two bowlers have been under used. How is that Hogg played just one match out of eight? He’s the only specialist spinner, he played one match, bowled very well (2/16 from 6.3 overs) and that was the last we saw of him until the finals. I can only imagine that the selectors had identified White as a key player and were giving him every opportunity. But Hogg could have been rotated with the quicks. Instead, he was put into the finals, having played just one international cricket match this year.
The the other area of indecisive leadership, in my opinion was with the pace bowlers. Perhaps the selectors were spoilt for choice and tried to provide themselves with too much of a sample, before making the final decision. Do you ever feel like you have too much choice when you make a decision? I see some people, before they make a decision, gather all the information they can lay their hands on. The result is being swamped with data which results in confusion, when all that was needed was to make a choice (perhaps there were several that seem about equal on merit), and to put your full backing behind it. I think the selectors needed to make an earlier choice on the quicks. I still don’t understand where Tait came from. At the beginning of the summer, the quicks in contention seemed to be McGrath, Lee, Bracken, Clark, Johnson and Hilfenhaus. That’s six and that is quite enough. More than enough. Hilfenhaus played the Twenty20 and the first one day match and was impressive in both. Why was he not given another chance? The selection of Tait seemed to me to be more about saying “Look at us, we have options coming out of our ears, so watch out or we might unleash the new Thommo on you”.
I would like to see Hilfenhaus in the team. What I mean is that I would have liked to have seen him a couple more times so that I could decide. As it turned out, Tait played two matches, bowled extremely well in the second and was given the flick. Selectors, how was that helpful to the overall cause? I think we need an injection of youth – strength and hunger – McGrath is looking very tired at times. His batting is of zero use. Absolutely nothing. He is moving like a 37 year old in the field and the catch he dropped on Friday was a real clanger. Of course, his experience and skill should be valuable at the World Cup but it’s a fine line. McGrath is in decline. By announcing his retirement, he’s already acknowledged that. It’s unlikely that he will be dumped for the World Cup and it will be sad if he can’t perform to something like his best for one final performance.
To keep you up to date around the traps. After blasting almost 350 in game two, Pakistan managed just 107 against South Africa and took a whole 45 overs to do it. Yawn. Sri Lanka fended India off by just five runs in game two of their series, following a wash out in game one. Australia is off to New Zealand on Wednesday for the the three match Hadlee-Chappell Trophy series. Mr Cricket is the captain.